Spring Table Topper Hopper Tour

Once again we will be participating in an 3 state, 8 shop, bus trip in April! Our last adventure was a lot of fun for everyone on the trip and we expect this excursion to be a great time as well. Check out the details!

The bus will leave Quilter’s Compass at 7:00 am on Saturday, April 18 and will return at approximately 5:30 pm on Sunday, April 19. The $149 cost includes all of your meals, snacks, double occupancy hotel room for 1 night (single occupancy for additional $50), and luxury coach. You will also receive a free pattern to accompany the coordinating fat eighth from each shop to create the table topper shown below. We will also be handing out door prizes along the way!

Shop Hop Topper

The occupants of the bus will be in the capable hands of our very own Eleanor as she joins you on the trip (and attempts to keep you all out of trouble!). We will be visiting the following shops on our trip:

  • Quilter’s Compass, Monticello, WI (feel free to stop in the shop early to browse the great selection we will have on hand for the hop!)
  • Mill House Quilts, Waunakee, WI
  • The Calico Shoppe, Eau Claire, WI
  • Pins ‘N’ Needles Quilt Shop, St Croix Falls, WI
  • Quilted Treasures, Rogers, MN
  • Calico Hutch, Hayward, MN
  • Quilter’s Window, New Hampton, IA
  • The Quiltmaker’s Shoppe, Manchester, IA

We hope you’ll join us! Talk to your friends and stop in to the shop or give us a call (608-938-4334) today to reserve your spot on the bus. Space is limited!

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Olympic Challenge Day 14 — Cut to the Chase

A lot has happened since our last post. I wish it was possible to make progress with my projects and keep everyone well-informed, but sometimes life just has other plans. At any rate, here is an update!

I did manage to finish coordinating all of the strip seBlock Bts for the rows of Block B. Once again I tried to match the color and value with the pattern instructions. I am still expecting the finished quilt to have the same look and feel as the pattern illustration. With the fabric progression determined it was time to put the row strips together to form strip sets and start sewing.

When you are sewing strip sets together for diamonds if you align your strips together by matching up the top edges you will waste more fabric than necessary once you start cutting the diamonds. You can see the potential for waste illustrated in the figures below. The first photo shows a 60 degree triangle ruler on a strip set that has all of the strips evenly aligned. Clearly there will be significant waste. Knowing that the even alignment would create more waste than I wanted to have, for my second set I guessed and offset each strip by 2½”. I thought that using the width of the strip for the offset would be the appropriate distance to minimize waste.  I was wrong, again.

Evenly Matched Strips           Strips Offset by 2-1-2Strips Offset by 1-1-4

On the last attempt I got tired of just randomly guessing and took some measurements. It appears that aligning the strips with a  1¼” offset minimized the waste once the angle of the diamond was cut. When it is time to cut the appropriately offset strip sets into rows for the diamonds I could get 6 or 7 rows per strip set. The variation in number of rows cut was due to starting strip length and type of selvage (not all fabrics were the exact same width to start with). With the extra waste taken out of the evenly aligned strip set I could only get 5 rows cut, so taking the time to offset the strips ultimately gave me more rows to pick and choose from.

With the offset determined and the sets sewn together there was one mSeams Pressed Openore step to complete before cutting the rows. The seams had to be pressed. Contrary to the general pressing rule for quilting (press seams together and toward the darkest fabric), for diamonds you want to press the seams open. This helps reduce and distribute the bulk  and prevent thick seam intersections. Reducing the bulk in seams helps to create flatter quilt tops and a nicer finished product.

With all of the strip sets sewn and pressed it was time to start cutting the rows. The first cut established the 60° angle that is used in this pattern. This angle can be determined by using a 60Trim at 60 Degree Angle° triangle ruler as shown in the photos above or by using the 60° line on a regular ruler. I lined the angle line up along the bottom edge of the strip set. There is only one thing wrong with this picture. If I had paid more attention to the instructions I would have realized that I was set to cut the angle the opposite way from the direction it should be cut. That also means that the strips were offset just the opposite of the way they should have been to get the proper angle. So, here we are at the point of talking about the Quilt Police.

Contrary to public opinion, and please sit down — this may shock you, there are NO Quilt Police. Yes, there are a great many generally accepted conventions and preferred ways of doing things in the quilt world. Yes, I know that any quilt judge would argue that competition quilts must be done a certain way. There are rules guiding most competitive endeavors. But there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to recreational quilting. Imagine if there were! We could be thrown in quilt jail for any number of reasons! I wonder if they would let us keep sewing, or simply taunt us by making us watch and not participate. But I digress. The fact is that there is an exception to most rules. Use good judgement, think about WHY you are doing the things that you are doing, and periodically question the rational behind the action. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you need to adapt to the circumstances. Around here we just say that there isn’t a pattern that we haven’t changed. This bring me back to what to do now that my strips are sewn so that my angle will be backwards.

It’s a simple decision. There is no time to fret over this and I’m not going to rip everything apart and start over. I’m just going to change the direction of the angle. Fortunately, since I am working scrappy I can easily do this without any effect on the finished quilt. My diamonds will look like mirrored images of the ones shown on the patterLining Up Strips Before Sewingn. No big deal.

With the angle established I can cut the rows. To make the next cut I line the straight ruler up with the 2½” line with the cut angled edge of the strip set and cut. Each row is 2½ inches wide. I repeated this process across the entire set and then did the same thing for all of the sets.

Stay tuned. Next we will talk about assembling the rows into diamonds and how to press the diamonds to maintain accuracy.

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Olympic Challenge Day 4 — Random Stripping

I’m going to preface this by stating that, despite popular belief, there really are no Quilt Police. Many of the aspects of quilting that are attributed to the Quilt Police really fall under the heading of Generally Accepted Best Practices. Just as there are reasons why things are done in a certain way, there are exceptions to every rule. Not only that, but one of our favorite sayings around the shop is “we’ve never met a pattern that we haven’t changed.” Let’s talk about what I have changed so far.

The Mosaic Diamonds Quilt pattern shows two 16 fabric diamond blocks and two 5 fabric (4 prints plus background) diamond. The fabric layout is basStacks of Stripsed upon cutting the number of strips of the specific fabrics specified in the pattern requirements and cutting directions. I have opted to change my quilt up a bit and add more prints for a scrappier look. By doing that I really can’t use the print layout as shown in the pattern. Or, maybe I can. Right now I just have a pile of strips cut and somehow they need to be grouped.

I am using a  color palette similar to the palette specified in the pattern and I have cut my strips to approximately maintain the same proportion of light and dark. Because I have more strips (98 half WOF instead of 49 WOF strips) I can mix the prints up more. What I will do is layout my strips in rows and simulate the color balance as it is shown in the pattern. But, instead of having enough row strip sets to creaBlock A Strip Sets 2te the 18 Diamond A blocks, I will layout several versions of each of the 4 rows in one of the diamonds, maintaining the color balance, but changing the prints. This way I can create either 3 sets of 5 identical blocks, or, if I get really scrappy, switch entire rows from the different groups to make all of the Diamond A blocks unique.

As you look through the sets you can see that each row has four pieces laid in order from left to right. The three different prints lined up in position for each row are shown going from top to bottom. Occasionally, I have used a print more than once in a given set. I am less concerned about repeating prints in different groups than I am trying to maintain the color balance.

The second thing you may have noticed is that I have gone from talking about needing 18 Diamond A block to discussing making 15. I will go into how to determine the number of strip sets to be cut from each group in a subsequent post, but for now the math works out to creating 15 blocks. Instead of making more strip sets to create the additional 3 blocks that will be needed I have decided to wait until I start placing the blocks on my design wall to determine the look and light/dark/color balance that I need to have to fill in.

I still need 12 Diamond B blocks and must go through the same process for those. That is another part of the reason that I stopped with the sets for 15 A Blocks. I wanted to be sure that I had reasonable strip choices remaining for the other blocks. With the majority of the blocks color matched with the original quilt I know I visually see what I want to add and where I want to add it for the remaining blocks.

One other tidbit to consider when you are trying to randomize the prints for a piece you are working on. Try taking all of your pieces (for this project it would be the strips of a similar value) and put them in a brown paper bag. Without looking, pull out a strip and place it in the next spot on the project. The trick is to NOT double dip and go back for a different strip just because you don’t like the one that came out. I know it sounds like it should be easy, but it is sometimes very difficult to just accept what you have in you hand instead of  matching prints that you think coordinate well!

Now that I have some strip sets coordinated I have my choice of sewing the sets together and cutting the rows, or matching the rest of the sets for the B blocks. Or, perhaps, I’ll have dinner and just watch the games for the rest of the evening! Check back tomorrow and find out which option won!

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Olympic Challenge Day 3 — Cut to the Chase

A good night’s sleep helps. Now back to the task at hand. The number of strips has been determined. Now it is time to see how efficiently I can get them cut.

As with just about everything with quilting there are several different ways to accomplish any task. When you are cutting strips the first thing most of us thRotary Cutting 1ink of is to simply take our rotary cutter and ruler and just repetitively make the cuts. Some people are confident enough to layer multiple fabrics and cut a number of strips at once. Others prefer to ensure accuracy and just do one strip at a time.   The key to rotary cutting is to use your ruler to achieve an accurate measurement, not your cutting mat. One issue with cutting mats is developing ruts due to overuse. If you routinely use the same lines on the mat to  cut specific sizes (example 2.5″, 5″, 7.5″ etc.) the repetitive motion will, over time cut grooves into the best self-healing mat. This falls under the category of ‘Ask me how I know’.

I have also found that covering the strip to be cut off with my ruler ensures that if my rotary cutter veers off course and I create a miscut I can clean up the mistake without having ruined the piece that I need for my project. For this project I need 98 strips. That is a lot of rotary cutting and potentially a fair amount of minor variation in the strip width depending upon how accurately I cut the strips. I do have another option.

Die cutting strips is a very efficient means of rapidly producing a lDie Cutting Strips 1arge number of uniform pieces very quickly. We have a Sizzix Big Shot Pro at the shop which I will use to cut lots of strips simultaneously. Using the 2-1/2″ strip die I can cut 4 strips across and up to 8 layers. Since I am working with fat quarters I will cut the 6 strips that I need from the light fabrics by folding the fabric back onto itself. I will cut 3 fat quarters at a time. There will be some waste, but being a Die Cutting Strips 2generally frugal person (at least where my fabric is concerned) I will save the leftover piece for a future project. Also, while I could cut 4 fat quarters at a time, due to the way I was layering them I simply decided to only do three. Mathematically it also worked out well. I did one FQ to test how I wanted to cut them. Once I was confidant about my approach and layering I was able to do three sets of three light FQs to get the light strips I needed. With the lightDie Cut Strips sets done I moved on to the medium and darks.

As I only planned to cut 4 strips of each of the medium and dark fabrics I layered my FQs and used my rotary cutter to precut the larger strip that I would put through my die cutter. With the stack set to go I cut 24 strips in one quick pass.

I know, the math doesn’t add up to the required 98 strips. Several of the original pieces (including the focus fabric) are not fat quarters. Those pieces I individually rotary cut rather than try to first get them to a size that was uniform with my FQs. Sometimes it is just easier and faster to manage exceptions on a case by case basis rather than try to get them to fit a preconceived mold.

Now that my strips are all cut, I will  be assembling them into 4 fabric sets. Tune in tomorrow for a full report on how that went and  see what choices were made to balance the colors, prints and shades!

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Olympic Challenge Day 2

Another day, another challenge. I’ve got the pattern and the fabrics, now what’s next?

Well, here is a shocker. I’ve decided to be realistic and organized. I hope you were sitting down. The reality is that it is Saturday, and after a long week I’m experiencing an energy crisis. Finding the motivation to make progress on this project is a tough sell right now. But I am determined to move forward. That is where the organization comes in.

I’ve counted. I have 16 days, including today, to achieve my goal. With the time schedule in mind, I’ve broken down the tasks to be completed to see just how many different parts there are. I have identified 12 different steps to be completed to finish the top. The steps are:

  1. Determine how many strips of each color
  2. Cut 98 Strips
  3. Cut Background diamonds
  4. Randomly choose 4 fabrics for each strip set
  5. Sew four fabrics together to create strip sets
  6. Press seams open
  7. Cut strip sets into segments to be assembled into diamonds (132 full and partial sets needed)
  8. Sew segments together to create diamonds
  9. Press seams open
  10. Block Diamonds
  11. Sew diamonds into rows
  12. Sew rows together, trim and stay stitch outer edge

It would seem that since there are more days than tasks there would be plenty of time to accomplish this. The reality is that some of the tasks take longer to accomplish than others and will probably take several days to complete. Also, it would be nice to have some extra time built in to the schedule to be able to address the inevitable delays that arise from daily life.

With a task list in hand I can start at the top and complete at least the first item today despite the energy crisis. According to the instructions you need 49 WOF (width of fabric) strips. I am making my diamonds scrappier and using more fabrics. I have 18 different fat quarters to use for the strips, so my strips will be half the WOF. To try to keep a balance between the light, medium and dark prints I have decided that I want to have 6 strips from each of the light fat quarters and 4 strips from the medium and dark fabrics. That will give me 66 light strips and 32 medium and darks. Once I start putting the sets together I will see if I need to change the balance to keep the overall color balance lighter with just pops of the darker prints.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I will discuss different methods for cutting strips and share some of the strip set  color combinations! It will be fun to start seeing how well some of the prints and colors play together. Now to relax and enjoy the Ladies Short Program in the Team Figure Skating competition!

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My Quilting Olympics – Choosing the Event

The Sochi Winter Olympics have opened today and many of us will be glued to drama and competition. For countries hosting the games it is an opportunity to share some of their culture and traditions with the world. One of the traditions that Russia is sharing through branding on the Sochi games is patchwork quilting. The Olympic Patchwork Quilt shows many of the traditional regional craft designs all incorporated into a stunning diamond patchwork. The first time I saw it I wanted to make something like it. That masterpiece will have to wait for another day. For now, I will be content with my own Olympic Games challenge — to create a diamond-based top for a small quilt and have the top finished by the end of the games. It will give me something productive to do while I watch the thrill of victory and agony of defeat!

To get started I have chosen a pattern that I find intriguing. I consider it to be a more modern take on a traditional diamond block quilt. This pattern, Mosaic Diamonds, is a free download available from Dear Stella Designs. Although the pattern features fabrics from two Dear Stella fabric lines, I will be substituting fabrics, but working in the same color palette. I can tell that winter in Wisconsin is starting to get to me. When I look at the color palette the first thing that comes to mind is how, at this point in the winter, snow starts to look dirty along roadways, but as you look out into the fields beyond the road the snow is pristine and white. With that little patch of pale yellow as an accent in the quilt my mind races back to childhood and the wisdom of many friends when we all advised each other “Don’t eat yellow snow!” Perhaps I should try to come up with a more grown-up image. Got it! How about gazing at rays of sunlight filtering through gray, snow-filled clouds and dancing along the snow covered surface of a tree-lined field. At least it sounds better! Enough of this reminiscing — back to work!

Recently I have been working on organizing my fabric stash. After 2 moves and much disruption it is a task long overdue. While sorting through onLeaf Fabric for Diamond Quilte of my crates of fabric I came across a 9 yard piece that I had originally purchased for a border and back of a quilt that I had planned to make. Of course, when I got the fabric home I discovered that I really didn’t have the right choice of coordinating prints to make it work. The project was shelved, and the fabric was waiting for the right time to come along. This is the time. I found a number of coordinating prints featuring whites, various shades and intensities of gray, taupe, and a  yellow to create the individual facets of the diamonds. For the background I will use a tonal white, probably one with snowflakes.

I have chosen more fabrics than the pattern calls for, but I want the diamonds to be scrappier and more choices gives me more flexibility to create the look and feel that I am trying to achieve. As I start to put strip sets together I will tweak the balance of colors to maintain a lightnLeaf Fabric with Coordinatesess to the quilt. The darker colors and prints will be used sparingly. My goal for tonight is to get my strip  cut and grouped so that I can start sewing tomorrow. The Olympics will continue until February 23, so I have a little over two weeks to get this top assembled. Given my schedule, that is a big challenge. But, like the participating athletes, I have trained for this. I know what my goal is. If I keep to my schedule, this should be achievable. Stay tuned! I will update with my progress daily and include as many tips and tricks as I can to help you master the art of piecing diamonds, too!

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Breakfast Club — Week 2

Hello!!

It’s Chris again! An update is in order as we had our second Breakfast Club  meeting yesterday (Jan 22) and it was another great breakfast! I got adventurous and modified the baked oatmeal into a tropical version…. banana-coconut-almond and it worked!!  Add orange pineapple juice, coffee and a WONDERFUL gluten free coffee cake that Barb made and you have a great breakfast! I will be adding another recipe to my cook book, but even more than another great recipe,  I really enjoy the food and friendship.

Yesterday’s topic was how to evaluate the stash just organized…by actually going through it, counting out and maybe measuring the pieces and adding them up on a tally sheet. Barb had a preprinted spread sheet with headers and columns. (Columns for sizes and lines for colors.) It is one way to try and account for all the pieces, but not absolutely necessary.  I know that there are companies that can be hired to do inventory and are very professional. This exercise isn’t anything as exact, but it should give us a very good idea of what we have available to work with, and isn’t that what this is all about? I have way too many ideas and I would like to put them into a project, or three — preferably before the fabric is so dated that I won’t use it or can’t blend colors!

It will be interesting to see how I tally the floral and multicolor pieces. Predominant color or by pattern…maybe by how much space is available. If I don’t have enough room I may have to combine two similar piles like browns and multicolor brown metallics.  There could be a lot of cross over. Regardless, I can also see that this is a very basic way to track my personal buying style. I think I can already see that I  have very few greens compared to the other colors…..

Since it was collectively determined that my pattern preference is “scrappy” it makes sense that my stash is mostly FQ’s. Lots of FQ’s and piled by color, mostly. Barb and Lynn both collect bigger pieces, up to 8 or 9 yards (backings) and never want to run out of a specific needed fabric. Since most fabrics are printed and then retired quickly it’s actually a good idea to have a bit more  than you think you need. I suspect as my quilting experience grows I will also adopt more of this buying style!

So…having gone home and looking at my bookshelves I was tempted to take a photo of all my pretty piles and leave it at that. I mean, I can SEE how much orange I have….but today Barb gave me “The Look” and reiterated that, while counting and measuring is the most accurate way to know what I have, the most important thing is to know the relative proportions of the different size pieces and colors.  Since we are in the middle of another Polar Vortex scenario I have plans to go back to the stack and try again to determine what I actually have. (Do I count the fabrics I have tucked into my PIGS? Hmm…)  Next week we are to bring our spread sheet/guesstimation/approximation and discuss what our plans are for using up our precious pieces, how to determine what the best stash busting project might be————— If you car pool the ride seems shorter and the car warmer!

I still think I’ll take a photo of it all.  Maybe that will keep me inspired to continue organizing and be organized. Next Breakfast Club is Wednesday Jan. 29. You can bring your own coffee mug and a friend as well! Will next week be quiche?

Soon,

Chris

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